I look at my sagging bookshelves, overflowing with well-thumbed volumes, many of them great works of fiction. Their power lies in their narrative force, their easy ability to beguile us into their worlds.
It strikes me that we too, living in the “real” world, base our lives upon the power of narratives. These narratives tell us who we are, who others are, what should happen to us, how we are to be fulfilled. When these inner stories come up and clash against the world, we feel pain, anger, guilt, sorrow. When the stories are confirmed by the world, we feel fulfilment and momentary peace: until the inner stories begin again.
Why do these inner stories have such power?
The answer, I think, lies in their ability to locate us in an uncertain world.
But this location is problematic. No narrative seems to define me satisfactorily. The very attempt at self definition is fraught with sorrow and painful effort and all the social emotions that we know so well.
The attempt at self-definition is also the root of violence, for when I define myself, I define you, necessarily, as other than me. The stronger my inner narrative, the more alien you and others are. When I see you as alien , I lash out at you.
Meditation, living in the present: these are words for the ability, however transient, to live in peace without an inner story. To attend to each moment on its own terms. To see the beauty and fragility of the universe without hungering for the anchor of permanence.
Can we share with each other, in this limited online world, both our narratives and our urge towards freedom?